Coronavirus Reveals What Some People Failed to Learn From Apocalypse Movies
It didn’t seem to take much to get people to completely switch their values in under a month of quarantine.
If you love apocalyptic film and fiction as much as I do, you have probably noticed that a single moral theme permeates the genre more completely than any other — the divide between survival-at-any-cost and a-life-worth-living.
The survival-at-any-cost characters have abandoned all moral pretense, and will say things like ‘my people’ to justify their atrocities. These are the characters who destroy humanity under the guise of preserving it. Their ethical compass is driven by that which can be quantified. The number of years lived is more important than the contents and choices of those lives. These are either the bad guys, or the good guys gone temporarily astray.
The a-life-worth-living characters insist that principles take precedence over survival, and they will often sacrifice themselves for a chance at creating the peaceful, harmonious existence they want humanity to get back to as soon as possible. These people are motivated by quality of life. They give their existence meaning and purpose, not through the number of years lived, but the goodness contained in that time. These are the good guys, or the naive victims in bad-guy-centered story lines.
The survival-at-any-cost characters draw their worldview from quantifiable facts. They rely on prediction models and act based on worst case scenarios.
The a-life-worth-living characters are centered on the particular experience of being a human being, and draw more from philosophy and a desire to maintain compassion for others. They make choices together based on their shared values and culture, with hope and good faith in humanity.
When the quarantine began back in mid-March, I gave the experts and officials the benefit of the doubt, and acted in full accordance with their recommendations. But it was difficult. I had just recently overcome years of depression by creating a regular gym routine and making professional ground in the film industry.
I was born with a defect, which causes my hips to be turned inward. It results in my whole legs doing the same, including my feet, which makes me ‘pigeon-toed’. As I have gotten older this has lead to a lot of hip and lower back pain. The routine I was able to create at the gym strengthened my muscles to compensate, and the equipment was designed to be low impact, which meant no unnecessary body stress. In the time since the gym closed, I can feel the aches and pains coming back, and the progress fading. I do as much as I can from home, but it is not the same. It is just enough to keep me going into free fall until I can get back to my tried-and-true routine at the gym.
The film industry was preparing to spring back to life after its winter dormancy, and just on the cusp of that time of opportunity, everything got shut down. Besides the background actor roles that make money, I had just started both a screenwriting and production company with friends I had made on sets. Things were just looking up, then it all fell apart.
Yet I humored the experts and officials and stayed home, and found solo projects that could fill my time while real life was on pause. But after a month I started to crack. The isolation was getting to me.
Until last fall I spent a year living in a small, insulated town in northeast New Mexico. It was not an easy place to live. Job opportunities and friendships were incredibly rare. If your family hadn’t been around for generations, you were basically invisible there. And so I basically spent an entire year there in isolation. I just escaped a deep depression that had been building for years, and in that time I realized that other people are what makes life worth living.
As a child I spent a lot of time being grounded. I don’t believe it was because I was a bad kid, but because my parents had difficult circumstances they were not mature enough to handle. However it did instill in me a trauma for being on the proverbial leash. The idea of imprisonment of any kind opens up old wounds and creates anxiety and panic.
Last week the protests began. People began to say, “Enough is enough! We have to live our lives.”
The people I know who think of themselves as progressive, liberal, empathetic, compassionate, etc. — immediately began reducing the protesters to political caricatures. They seemed to spend absolutely no effort considering the protests were, though misguided, a cry for help. Nor that the people involved were struggling mentally and emotionally, and needed empathy and compassion, not media-driven derision.
For their part, the protesters did not make a very good case for themselves. Rather than expressing their personal inner turmoil, they appealed to quantifiable facts. So a rhetorical war began, using weaponized statistics to ‘prove’ who was right.
“There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” — Mark Twain
Everything quickly degenerated into blame, conspiracy, mockery and all the other detritus our media saturated lives.
But what got to me was that sudden conversion from the quality people to quantity people. Suddenly liberals and progressives were starting to sound like survivalists and pro-lifers with their statistically justified survival-at-any-cost narratives. They had marched into the cultural commons and attempted to drive the stake of science into the broken hearts of the isolation weary, not even willing to consider the reality of their pain and suffering.
I don’t want to get into factual arguments here. I am, without a doubt, on the side of the a-life-worth-living characters. We are all going to die. Living in fear just means you keep breathing for awhile afterwards. Whatever the risks are, at some point we have to take them. We cannot hide forever. That is not even living. We gave the quarantine a good go. We can chalk it up to a practice exercise that might be useful if ever an even more dangerous pandemic occurs.
So those who might gaslight me, and others who are suffering from isolation, with their charts and graphs, would do well to search their hearts right now. You cannot just BECAUSE LIFE IS PRECIOUS people into obedience, and you of all people should know this. You have become hypocrites and villains with the righteous fury of expert opinion and rushed predictions. Just as we need love the most, you have turned your back on it, and replaced it with hateful indignation.
If this is who we are now, the kind of people willing to turn on each other and our own principles in such a short time, all to validate the experts, officials and media of the ruling class - while announcing our identity brand, then maybe the virus should win. It is the principles of humanity that makes us human. Without it we are just a virus ourselves. If we abandon our humanity to serve manufactured narratives and exchange vitriol, then maybe there is nothing left to preserve.